Soul Music

Soul Music

124 episodes


Series about pieces of music with a powerful emotional impact



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10 August 2020

I Will Survive

BBC Radio 4
"At first I was afraid, I was petrified"... From a breakup to a shipwreck, emotional true stories of what Gloria Gaynor's iconic disco anthem I Will Survive means to different people around the world. A woman sets out to become the first female rower to cross the Atlantic solo; a woman listens to the song 35 times in a row after a breakup; a drag queen steps onto the stage of a Berlin nightclub; a mother watches her daughters sing karaoke at a holiday club on the first foreign holiday since leaving her abusive marriage; women gather on the steps of the Courts of Justice to sing the song together as they await a verdict. Featuring Elisabeth Hoff, Latrice Royale, Penny Arcade, Pragna Patel and Nadine Hubbs. Produced by Mair Bosworth
05 August 2020

Harvest Moon

BBC Radio 4
It's a love song about growing old. Neil Young's Harvest Moon released in 1992 is a nod to the 1970s country rock loved by music blogger Alyson Young. It's also a grown up song about love says singer-songwriter Ricky Ross. How do you make the magic last and how do you keep love alive? People tell their stories about what the song means to them: jazz singer Maureen Washington danced to the song with her late husband. Amanda Legere played it to her premature baby daughter when she went to see her in the ICU. She knows the baby responded to that song. Mary Divine and her husband were serenaded on their wedding anniversary during lockdown. The whole neighbourhood came out to watch a teenage neighbour play Harvest Moon for them. Margy Waller drove to work at the White House on the final days of Bill Clinton's Presidency listening to Harvest Moon because she needed to cry. For her it's a song about loss. She is still touched by it today during the pandemic in what she describes as another period of great loss. Versions include Harvest Moon by Neil Young Cassandra Wilson Maureen Washington Nils Lofgren Neil Young Unplugged Produced by Maggie Ayre Alyson's music blog is Ricky Ross presents Another Country on BBC Radio Scotland. Maureen Washington is a jazz singer based in British Columbia.
22 July 2020

Pavane Pour Une Infante Défunte by Maurice Ravel

BBC Radio 4
Ravel's beautiful Pavane For A Dead Princess touches many people. While it is not actually about a dead princess it does evoke a sense loss. For Carla van Raay it symbolises the loss of innocence she experienced after sexual abuse as a child which led her to make some difficult life choices. Deal Hudson played it to prisoners in Atlanta and was moved by their reaction. At an academy for troubled teenagers in California the Pavane had a similar effect. Genevieve Monneris comes from the town where Ravel was born on the border with Spain. Her film Henri and Pat tells the story of three French airman who were stationed in York during World War Two. Just days before Henri's plane was shot down the three young men went to a concert of Ravel's music in York. So the piece has a strong emotional meaning for Genevieve whose own father was also stationed with the RAF in York. Professor Barbara Kelly of the Royal Northern College of Music explains the background to the Pavane's composition and why it appeals to the emotions in such a powerful way. Although it was written at the end of the 19th century it became more widely known in the 1920s. That was when a young woman called Lucia Joyce daughter of James Joyce danced to it with her avant garde dance group. The writer Annabel Abbs tells Lucia's tragic story of how her life ended in a mental asylum and how she almost became the imaginary 'dead princess'. Versions used: Pavane Pour Une Infante Défunte William Orbit Julian Bream James Rhodes Maurice Ravel Ravel Pavane arrangement for harp and cello Producer: Maggie Ayre
15 July 2020

Feeling Good

BBC Radio 4
The surprising history behind a track made famous by Nina Simone. Feeling Good was written for a now obscure musical and originally performed by Cy Grant, the first black man to appear regularly on British TV. Cy Grant's daughter, Samantha Moxon, describes her father's extraordinary life from Prisoner of War camp to a successful career in the arts. The composer, Neil Brand, discusses why the song has gone on to transcend the almost forgotten musical it was created for. Other speakers are Sam Reynolds, who says the track helped her through challenging times, and musician, Kirsten Lamb, who sings a simplified version with young children at a homelessness project in Massachusetts. Producer: Karen Gregor
22 January 2020

Sittin' On the Dock of the Bay

BBC Radio 4
Sittin' On The Dock of the Bay was written while Otis Redding was reflecting on his life on Sausalito Bay in California in the summer of 1967. Its upbeat, laidback melody belies the loneliness of the lyrics. Just a few months later Otis Redding was killed in a plane crash and the song was released, becoming the first posthumous number 1 record in the US. His musician contemporaries including Booker T Jones and guitarist Steve Cropper, who co-wrote Dock of the Bay, tell the story of the song's genesis, and people in their twenties to their seventies reveal why they relate it to dramatic periods in their lives. Booker T Jones' Time Is Tight is published by Omnibus Press Producers: Maggie Ayre and Mair Bosworth
15 January 2020


BBC Radio 4
“It’s a goodbye song, but it’s also an inspirational song, It could also mean a new beginning" - Ray Davies Written by Ray Davies and released by the Kinks in 1968 'Days' had a very different sound to the rest of their repertoire. Sorrowful but uplifting it's been embraced by listeners across the world who have found solace and hope in it's lyrics. Having been covered by numerous artists (most notably Kirsty MacColl), it speaks to people of all generations and captures moments in their lives. For Sim Wood it's an anthem to great friendships and discovery whilst for actor Gabriel Vick it's a song that has journeyed with him from a place of fond memories to heartfelt remembrance. John Slater, who was born the same year that it was released, has his own celebratory take on 'Days' and for Laura and John Mapes it's the song that gave them the words they so needed to express. Produced By Nicola Humphries With contributions from rock critic and writer Barry Miles For Help and Support BBC Action Line support: Emotional distress The Samaritans Cruse Bereavement Care provides support after the death of someone close including face to face, telephone, group support, as well as bereavement support for children. SUDEP Action provides information and bereavement support to families affected by Sudden Unexpected Death in Epilepsy (SUDEP) and other epilepsy related deaths. Young Epilepsy is a national charity supporting children and young people aged 25 and under living in the UK with epilepsy.
08 January 2020

Toto's Africa

BBC Radio 4
Released in 1982, this soft-rock anthem has become an unlikely viral smash-hit. Africa by Toto is a song that has changed lives, helped to raise thousands of pounds for charity and provided an unexpected musical corner-stone in a critically acclaimed play. Telling their personal stories in Soul Music: Ralf Schmidt is the Artistic Director of Ndlovu Youth Choir which is made up of young people from the poorest parts of South Africa. Incredibly, the choir made it to the final of America's Got Talent, one of the biggest entertainment shows in the world. Ralf's exuberant, irresistible and uniquely African arrangement of Toto's Africa was their stand-out performance. (Brief extract of AGT (c) Fremantle USA and Syco Entertainment) Michael Savage (aka DJ Michael Vinyl) of Prime Cuts record shop in Bristol, staged what could be considered a night of torture when he played Africa non-stop for twelve hours at a club. As Mike and Olivia Perry recall, this was to raise money for the Bristol based charity, Temwa, which operates in Malawi. They expected a handful of people to turn up, but the event had worldwide attention and was a huge success. Mike Massé's life was completely changed following his release on YouTube of what many consider to be one of the best Africa cover-versions ever recorded. The main photo is of Mike Massé (photo credit: Jim Mimna). David Greig is the Artistic Director of the Lyceum Theatre in Edinburgh; an esteemed playwright with intellectual clout. So, why did he include Africa in one of his plays? Well, he nearly didn't, but then he saw the light. And, Abigail Gardner, a reader in music at the University of Gloucestershire, explains why Africa - originally a US No. 1 for just a week in 1982 - has recently undergone a strange modern rebirth, making it one of the most streamed songs on the internet. Please scroll down to the 'Related Links' box to find out more about the interviewees. Producer: Karen Gregor
25 December 2019

Coventry Carol

BBC Radio 4
Performed as part of the mystery plays, the 'Coventry Carol' is from the Pageant of the Shearman and Taylors and tells the story of the Slaughter of The Innocents. A copy of the manuscript survived a fire in Birmingham Library in 1879 by sheer chance. Musician Ian Pittaway describes seeing the play in the ruins of Coventry cathedral in the 1980s - the drama was so powerful it still moves him to tears. The carol was sung on Christmas Day in 1940 in a live broadcast to the Empire just six weeks after the bombing of Coventry that destroyed the city's cathedral. Journalist Donna Marmestein tells of how the carol transformed how she felt about loss in her family; composer and performer Tori Amos describes what inspired her cover version of the song and Amy Hanson from the Small Steps Charity talks about how much her mother loved the carol. The children from the school her charity supports in Kenya sing their version of the song. Roxanne Burroughs explains about how her daughter Kaitlyn came to have the carol sung at her funeral. The soloist is Samantha Lewis; early music is from The Night Watch; Reading Phoenix choir and Southern Voices sing the carol and the children's choir is from the Rehabilitation centre Immanuel Afrika in Nairobi, Kenya. Producer: Sara Conkey
18 December 2019

We Are Family

BBC Radio 4
We Are Family written by Nile Rodgers and performed by the Sledge Sisters Kathy, Kim, Debbie and Joni was released in 1978 at the height of disco's popularity. Kim Sledge says it has become the anthem for diverse groups of people around the world who come together on the dance floor to form a friend family. Professor Tim Lawrence says disco at its best was an inclusive music movement that welcomed people of all races and genders, unlike rock music which in the early 1970s appealed to a predominantly white male audience. We Are Family epitomised dance music's appeal to traditionally marginalised groups in the USA - African Americans, Latinos, women and gay men. Listen to the stories of some of the people for whom the song is linked with some of the most significant experiences of their lives. Producer: Maggie Ayre
11 December 2019

The Boxer - Simon & Garfunkel

BBC Radio 4
The Boxer - Simon & Garfunkel. People who connect directly with the lyrics and have a deep personal connection to the song discuss what this masterpiece means to them. Seamus McDonagh is a former boxer. He describes the tumultuous time he had during and after his famous fight with Evander Holyfield in 1990. He also explains why he identifies closely with the lyrics of The Boxer. Julie Nimoy is the daughter of Leonard Nimoy and co-producer of the film 'Remembering Leonard Nimoy' which tells the life story of this much loved actor, most famous for playing Mr Spock in Star Trek. The Boxer was his favourite song, and Julie describes exactly what it meant to him both throughout his life, and in its closing moments. Gary Edward Jones is a singer-songwriter who for years rejected comparisons made of him to Paul Simon. Eventually, he embraced the likeness and his life changed after developing a show called 'Something About Simon - The Paul Simon Story'. Dave Mason is an amateur guitarist who has found deep meaning in The Boxer; meaning that has changed and grown as he has. Scroll down for photos, and to the 'Related Links' box to find out more about these interviewees. Producer: Karen Gregor